Today, 20th October, is the birthday of former Doctor Who companion Anneke Wills, who is 72 years young!
Anneke was born on October 1941, in Berkshire. Her parents Anna and Alaric Willys (she later changed her name to Wills) had planned to buy a house in the South of France but World War II ended that idea. Alaric was a gambler whose debts forced Anna to take on a string of jobs while he became a captain in the British army and an absent figure. Anna worked as a companion to a blind aristocrat, gardener, teacher – moving Anneke and her brother Robin around the country several times. Anneke won her first role at the age of 11 while she was living on a houseboat in Bray, Berkshire. The film was called Child’s Play and she gave the £9 fee to her mother. Deciding she wanted to be an actress she then studied drama at the Arts Educational School in London and quickly became one of the busiest actresses of her generation, early roles included an appearance as Roberta in the first TV version of The Railway Children in 1957.
In 1966, she was offered the role of Polly Wright in Doctor Who. She played Polly from 1966 to 1967 alongside William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton as the Doctor – the first in a long line of glamorous Doctor Who girls. Polly joined the crew of the TARDIS in The War machines and left with Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) in The Faceless Ones. In 1970 Anneke gave up acting and moved to Norfolk, throwing herself into motherhood and gardening. During this time she travelled to Vietnam and Laos, and spent a lot of time at Poona, India, at the ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. She and her son Jasper visited the ashram many times in the 1970s and early 80s.
The Tenth Planet
Anneke remarried twice and lived in California and in an artists colony on Hornby Island in Canada before returning to the UK in the mid-1990s. She is still involved in the worlds of Doctor Who, being a popular guest at conventions, and being employed by the BBC and Big Finish to record various Doctor Who related audio and DVD projects.
Other television credits include appearances in The Avengers and as Evelyn in Strange Report. However she left the latter series when it was planned to switch filming to Hollywood.
Anneke will be attending the premiere of An Adventure In Space And Time - the drama about the genesis of Doctor Who – on Tuesday 12th November.